The British Museum in Thirteen Objects – The King’s and Queen’s Pavements

The king's pavement

The King’s Pavement, British Museum

The King’s and Queen’s Pavements were laid in Clarendon Palace, near Salisbury, in Wiltshire. The palace was originally a royal hunting lodge and Henry II and Henry III both spent a lot of money converting it into something fit to receive them for longer periods.

It was Henry III who was responsible for the pavement above. He had a circular floor laid in his private chapel around 1244. The floor was about 4m in diameter.  Up until this point tiled floors were mainly found in ecclesiastical buildings. Once the king had one, everyone wanted a decorated pavement in their houses.

The construction of the pavement was ordered on 12th March 1244. The tiles were made on-site and a kiln was built nearby to fire them.  The thin green tiles are just green tiles, but the brown tiles are inlaid with designs showing very stylised leaves and fleurs de lys. There was an inscription around the outer edge of the pavement, but no one knows what it said since most of the letters are lost and the ones that were found were not necessarily in their original location.

The chapel for which the pavement was made was on the first floor and the tiles were scattered when the building collapsed. The palace was in poor condition before the time of Elizabeth I, who had to eat somewhere else when she visited it, so unsafe had it become. It was a ruin by the eighteenth century.

The queen's pavement

The Queen’s Pavement, British Museum

The Queen’s pavement covered the ground floor of Eleanor of Provence’s personal apartments in Clarendon Palace. She was Henry III’s queen and was a bit of a trend-setter, bringing fashions from France with her. Even in those days the English were in thrall to French fashion. In her private rooms there were glazed windows and a fireplace, both of which took a long time to spread across England.

The tiles depict symbolic animals: regal lions and griffins who guarded treasure.

These are the last of my tiles from the museum.


Sources: Masterpieces of Medieval Art by James Robinson



Filed under Medieval Buildings, Thirteenth Century

16 responses to “The British Museum in Thirteen Objects – The King’s and Queen’s Pavements

  1. Both floors must have been impressive in their heyday. The combination of the golden brown and pale green is very pretty, but the patterns in the Queen’s pavement are eye-catching too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, they must have been wonderful. I wonder how many people saw them, given that they were in the king’s private chapel and the queen’s private apartments. Those who did see them must have talked about them a lot.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder if some of the inspiration for the tile floors came from the Crusades and the Spanish Moorish influences? While enough of the Roman and Byzantine relics remained, the patterns, small as they are, show an Islamic touch.

    Sure hope more tiles are found one day!

    So far, I remember only one item from my own visit to the British Museum.
    Likely, as a young woman, I was more interested in seeking the Rosetta Stone and other notable artifacts. Your virtual tour is a keen delight! I am so pleased to read, see, and explore them further via the museum’s website.

    And all from my little house in Indiana. Bless you, April!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Yes, the Rosetta Stone is notable.

      My first visit to the British Museum is still the one that stands out the most. We went to see the exhibition of the artefacts from Tutenkhamen’s tomb. That was in 1972. It was amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It seems, as with Susan Abernethy’s site, that I am no longer able to “like” the main article. When I do,I get a flash of the sign-in box & then it’s gone.

    Just letting you know I WISH my little icon could appear under your “likes”!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Losing the Plot

    That Castle that I mentioned the other day – Carrickfergus Castle, was finished by Henry III around 1250AD and the chapel, as I hazily recall, was the first building in Ireland to have a glass window.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glass was really expensive in the Middle Ages. It was ages before it was cheap enough to be used widely. I always have to remind myself in the novels that people are drinking out of clay mugs, not glasses. If someone is looking through a window, I have to think about what it is that’s covering the window.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mica, when available, was used in windows, much as with leaded glass.
    Horns, boiled until softened & shaven until somewhat opaque was another cheap choice. Neither were clear, but did allow some light.

    I have heard that greased chamois, or lambskin, was as option, but tended to rot quickly. Wonder if bleached cloth or white wool, loosely woven, could have worked? Probably cost too dear and rotted as well.

    Sod houses were used on American prairies. Often, they had no windows; just a door frame & hole in the roof for a stovepipe or fireplace flue. Because it was difficult in those days to seal doors, it was usually ventilated enough for all but the snowiest days, when people could die from asphyxiation when doorways were snowed shut. Also, nearly all chores but cold-weather cooking occurred outdoors.

    The difference was that in America, these homes were nearly all temporary.
    The sod homes in the Old Country sufficed for generations. THAT makes me appreciate them all the more as I enjoy my large windows and air conditioning.

    Best regards!


    • I’ve read about treated cloth being used for windows, but there were no specifics about how it worked.

      That’s tragic about people dying because they couldn’t open the door of their house.

      I’d love to have air conditioning at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A very dear friend lives in south Yorkshire & says this summer has been one for the books! It’s bad here in parts of the U.S. & Canada, where another friend is frying.

        My heart goes out to you! England shouldn’t be suffering so. I truly hope things turn around and become more seasonable. Blessings!

        Liked by 1 person

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